“Are-we-going-to-the-store-because-I-hafta-get-Big-Red-Do-you-know-what-that-is-It’s-gum-and-I-hafta-get-some,” Kadi spewed breathlessly as she jumped in the van after play practice.
“Hello to you, too. And, yes, for the record, I do know what Big Red is. It’s been around a lot longer than you have.”
“Great! Can we get some at the store? Hannah was telling me about it. She loves it so I’m sure I will too.”
The homeschool theater troupe, with whom Kadi performed, gave her the opportunity to befriend many wonderful kids from good Christian homes. Hannah was a few years older than Kadi and served as a role model in many ways. It just happened that we were headed to the store and it was my pleasure to buy Kadi a pack of Big Red gum. However, I was unprepared for what she did next.
As soon as we got in the van, Kadi ripped open the Big Red package and un-wrapped a stick of gum. Instead of popping it in her mouth, she set the gum on her leg and licked the inside of the wrapper. Then she stuck it to her forehead.
“What on earth are you doing?”
“Hello! I’m sticking the wrapper to my forehead. Hannah said if you lick it and stick it, it will start to tingle and burn after a few minutes. She said after the wrapper falls off it will keep burning for like an hour or two and leave a little red rectangle on your head.”
“And you would want to do this because…?”
“Are you kidding? ’Cuz Hannah did it and she is so cool!”
“He who walks with the wise grows wise,
But a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Now, just in case you are a daredevil at heart, I’ll just spare you the time and expense of trying this Big Red experiment yourself. Kadi discovered that her skin did tingle for a minute or two, but no longer than that and there was no red mark. But that’s not the point is it? The point is, even though our daughter was with a group of good kids, who weren’t doing anything legally or morally wrong, Kadi chose to do something that was…well…not too bright, just because her friend had done it before her. Yes, I contributed to her “delinquency” by purchasing the gum, but who knew?
Adolescence is a season of strong friendships. This is when kids are most likely to chalk their parents up as a complete loss in terms of intelligence and “with-it-ness.” Their growing self-consciousness and desire for independence often results in a serious case of parent-itis. Let’s face it, almost anything we do at this point is going to be way un-cool and their friends’ half-baked ideas and opinions will matter most.
To a teenager, friendships are everything. Their world revolves around fitting in and girls especially are driven by the popularity game. It’s all about knowing what group they are part of and what the social rules are for being in that group or not.
Sadly, this is often dictated by their appearance on a given day. In her mind, a bad hair day can begin a downward spiral for an early adolescent. As these girls mature and reach high school age, they typically settle into a small group of friends and find security with others who share similar values and goals.
Boys seem to have it a little easier when it comes to friendships. They tend to have fewer criteria for acceptance and as long as they know how to have fun, they are one of the guys. Boys may engage in competitive posturing and to some degree, may concern themselves with clothing style as a form of identification with a specific group; athlete, theater buff, nerd, etc.
With friends playing such a significant role in the lives of our children, the power of peer pressure should come as no surprise. Peer pressure gets a bad rap but it’s not all bad. Some of my children’s best behaviors have come about because they were mimicking older kids who set an excellent example for them. If only we could handpick their friends! Alas, trying to do so can push our kids in the wrong direction. Instead, we need to talk openly with our teens about friendships in general and about the choices they make. Jesus taught us to know people by their fruit and this is something we should do too. If circumstances are such that intervention is necessary, then proceed with caution and be candid, but even-tempered, about your concerns. Most importantly, pray.
And so I pray…
Jesus, Your Word reminds me that you call me friend. I can’t think of anything sweeter than that. I am in awe of the fact that you created and control the whole universe including the friends you bring into my life. I pray that you would give __________ wisdom and discernment about her friendships. May she understand that “a righteous man is cautious in friendship” (Proverbs 12:26). Jesus, “if sinners entice __________, do not let her give in to them.” May she “not set foot on their paths” (Proverbs 1:10,15). May __________’s character be a reflection of you. Amen.
*Excerpt from my book, Parenting on Your Knees.
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Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years
Strap on your sense of humor and don some knee pads as you prepare to be equipped for/by Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years. Vicki Tiede provides parents of preschoolers tools and strategies for parenting and praying when sleep and alone time are at a minimum. You will find hope and encouragement to nurture and pray for your child’s character, behavior, social skills, development, and spiritual growth.
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